Editors win interdict against Parliament
The Western Cape High Court today granted the South African National Editors Forum an interim interdict against Parliament.
The interdict forbids Parliament's portfolio committee on communications from continuing with a closed meeting, which began at 10am today.
The crucial meeting, which should have been open to the public, is discussing a new crisis at the SABC.
About 40 journalists, all members of Parliament's Press Gallery Association, made a peaceful attempt to enter the committee room earlier this morning but were manhandled by Parliament's security officers. The journalists then held a sit-in on the floor outside the meeting.
When the journalists heard that the High Court had granted SANEF's interdict, they erupted in cheers.
Press Gallery Association chairperson Caiphus Kgosana, who works for Sowetan's sister paper Sunday Times, then tried to lead the way into the committee room but was barred by another contingent of police who had been called by parliament.
Parliament's lawyer then arrived with a copy of the interdict.
The committee asked the SABC board to leave the room while they took legal advice on what to do next.
An angry parliamentary spokesperson, Luzuko Jacobs, asked journalists "why are you doing this to us? Move back and open the way here". But by 1pm, journalists were still holding their sit-in outside the door of the committee meeting venue.
Sapa reports that lawyers for Sanef and Parliament will now discuss a date for a hearing at which the matter can be fully argued.
In papers filed for the application, Sanef secretary general Gaye Davis said there was a clear public interest in the meeting.
"The SABC is resourced with public funds, and the public has a clear interest in its functioning and a right to information concerning the affairs of the SABC," she said. "As a corollary, the media has a right and indeed an obligation to report on the functioning and affairs of the SABC."
"I submit that a dangerous a precedent will be set if this meeting is held behind closed doors as it could become a frequent resort by chairpersons of committees confronted with difficult issues that are potentially embarrassing for persons occupying public office," she said.
Acting Judge Sven Olivier ordered that the committee not proceed with any sitting from which the public, including the media, were excluded, at which it would receive presentations from the SABC board on the turnaround strategy, the filling of the post of group executive, and on the functioning of the board.
This court order is valid until "the final determination of this matter".